Where should I take my new-diver 11 year old to start?

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Knockneed Man

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Happy hump day everyone. I just enrolled my 11 year old son into an SDI open water course. My ex-wife has a trip on the books for the two of them going to Nevis this fall and she wanted to take him diving, probably just a two-tank day with a guide. Noteworthy, she's a novice diver who hasn't dove in years. I'm a DM and in order for me to feel comfortable letting him go with her, I'm going to help him along the way with his schooling and take him on a quick dive trip beforehand to make sure he's comfortable with equalizing, etc. (also I there's a bit of me that selfishly want his first dives to be with dad :wink: ). He's doing e-learning now, and his pool work in two weeks.

With that backstory, I'm looking for a good intro spot to take him to do his open water dives. We live in Colorado, so everything is a flight or two. I'm leaning towards the Key Largo area where I did my first dives as a kid, but open to suggestions. Basically looking for shallow, clear, and pretty; while not overly expensive. Thanks in advance!
 

Doc

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Spend 3 or 4 visits to your local pool. You can do a whole lot with that.

As to your pre-Nevis quest, Florida isn’t going to fit those criteria. I’d revert to the pool, and….

You’re a DM? Then, you know the potential benefit to hiring a private DM for just them in Nevis. Essentially: Put your money where your mouth is.

He will likely learn faster/easier/more from a not-daddy.

Edit: I am confused by your phrasing of ‘wanting to take him for his OW dives”…is that a reference to you wanting to DM his open water dives with his Instructor?
 

maj2

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My daughter got her Jr OW when she was 10 in November 2013. By 2016, she had her Jr AOW.

Some of the trips that we have done are not necessarily going to be "not overly expensive", but a few of the places she has been diving with me include:
-Grand Bahama Island (Nov 2014)
-Grenada (July 2015)
-Disney Epcot aquarium (Aug/Sept 2015)
-Bonaire (March 2016 and March 2018)
-San Jose del Cabo, Mexico (August 2016)
-Cozumel (March 2017)
-AquaCat liveaboard (coming up Christmas 2021!!)

At each destination, sites were chosen based on her certification level (and that of any other junior divers in the group) at the time and her/their abilities as the DMs watched her/them dive. She did just fine on each trip.

Cozumel and Bonaire trips were done with a local dive club with other junior divers in the mix for an annual March break dive trip of diving families. These were dedicated diving trips with multiple dives per day. My daughter rarely does more than two dives per day on these trips. She might throw in a third for a night dive after spending the afternoon relaxing in the sun.

Grand Bahama, Grenada, Disney and San Jose del Cabo were family trips with a bit of diving thrown in. In Grenada and San Jose del Cabo, we were usually the only two divers on the boat each day.

Of course, I also encourage her to do as much local diving as possible-- usually quarries in Ohio (pre-COVID border shutdown) and Tobermory, Ontario. It got a lot easier to convince her to do more local diving once we found a used drysuit that fit her.
 

Jake 10

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arew+4

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Roatan can be fairly inexpensive for two. If you have reasonable airfare nearby and the two big AIs are offering specials. The diving is nice and there is plenty to see within the Jr. OW depth limits.
 

lowviz

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A slightly different take on this.

My kid did a bootleg dive during a boy scout campout. He was on the octo. Totally hooked, even to this day. He is 30 y/o. Now owns all his own stuff.

At ten or eleven just being competent at breathing under water and have a sense of buoyancy is the 'be all and end all'.

All the destination brags are totally lost on me. Who is that for?
 
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BrackaFish

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Happy hump day everyone. I just enrolled my 11 year old son into an SDI open water course. My ex-wife has a trip on the books for the two of them going to Nevis this fall and she wanted to take him diving, probably just a two-tank day with a guide. Noteworthy, she's a novice diver who hasn't dove in years. I'm a DM and in order for me to feel comfortable letting him go with her, I'm going to help him along the way with his schooling and take him on a quick dive trip beforehand to make sure he's comfortable with equalizing, etc. (also I there's a bit of me that selfishly want his first dives to be with dad :wink: ). He's doing e-learning now, and his pool work in two weeks.

With that backstory, I'm looking for a good intro spot to take him to do his open water dives. We live in Colorado, so everything is a flight or two. I'm leaning towards the Key Largo area where I did my first dives as a kid, but open to suggestions. Basically looking for shallow, clear, and pretty; while not overly expensive. Thanks in advance!

Plus +1 for @Doc idea for additional pool time especially if the pool is big enough to work on buoyancy which I see as the biggest bump in the road for new divers. Here in Florida Our LDS trains in Alexander springs and Devils Den for checkout divers due to safety reasons. Offshore Daytona is not really a place for new divers due to currents, visibility and distance from shore. Alexander Springs offers some depths at about 24 feet, good visibility and a sandy bottom that clears quickly when disturbed. Devils Den offers training platforms with less visibility. Blue Grotto also has training platforms and you might see Virgil the turtle. BHB offers another possibility, but with only one dive a day. Others can chime in about the Keys or west coast of Florida. Good luck and be safe.
 

arew+4

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For the record, we had our kids get certified at 13, 13, and 15. E-learning followed by pool and OW checkouts in Bonaire. It was only cost effective because I make it up on volume.:wink:
 
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Knockneed Man

Knockneed Man

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You’re a DM? Then, you know the potential benefit to hiring a private DM for just them in Nevis. Essentially: Put your money where your mouth is.

He will likely learn faster/easier/more from a not-daddy.

Edit: I am confused by your phrasing of ‘wanting to take him for his OW dives”…is that a reference to you wanting to DM his open water dives with his Instructor?

Yes, they will absolutely have a private dm or instructor with them in Nevis.

What I meant by "taking him for his OW dives" is that we only have confined pool options here. For check out dives you can go to the crater in Utah, but I've dove that many times and given the six hour one way drive there, I'd just as rather book a trip to a preferred dive location and hire an instructor there to do his check out dives. To be clear I'm not instructing or dm'ing any of his dives, but I will be along for his check-out dives in whatever location we choose - not gonna sit on the dock lol

Thanks everyone for the replies. Jake, funny you mention Rainbow Reef - that's exactly who I've been looking at going with. Out of everywhere I've been I can't think of a place more beginner friendly than the Pennekamp / Christ of the abyss area dives, which is why I've so far been focused on that.

Lowviz, I hear you. I started out sneaking my dads gear when I was a kid in the 70's. Definitely don't have aspirations of destination brags, but we don't have anywhere to dive here. Also I've known many new divers who's introduction is in murky, cold water with nothing around to see, and never dove again because they didn't see what all the fuss was about. If we're going to have to travel to dive, which we do, it may as well be somewhere worthwhile.

And thanks Bracafish. Yes, we will focus on as much pool time as possible prior to check-outs and trip. I've spent many, many hours at Blue Grotto and it indeed is a great learning resource.
 

Satrekker

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Key Largo/Islamorada area is hard to beat as far as shallow, warm water dives with great visibility. That would be an excellent place to go for first, post-certification trip. However, I would recommend avoiding the cattle boats, especially Rainbow Reef. I don't think many people who recommend them have dove much with anybody else.

Quiescence has smaller boats that run 6 packs. I'd look into booking something with them and then you could also pay for a dm to accompany the family. You'd pretty much have the boat and crew to yourself depending upon size of family, and they have numbers for smaller reefs that look better due to a lot less dive pressure because they aren't really large enough for 25+ divers at a time. Having said that, they still make trips to the busier, most popular reefs like Molasses. Pleasure reef where Captain Slate has his Creature Feature is 20ish feet and gorgeous. I'd highly recommend that one. It's one of my favorite around there. GL
 
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